San Angelo Obtaining Official Texas "Music Friendly Community" Certification was a Long Time Coming
SAN ANGELO, TX — Today, the Conventions & Visitors Bureau of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce announced that the State of Texas through the Office of the Governor has designated and certified San Angelo as a “Music Friendly Community.”
Getting there has an almost two-decades-long history.
Downtown San Angelo was a lonely, abandoned place when Blaine Martin opened a bar at 10 W. Harris Ave. in 1997. Martin, a boisterous former carney and known hell raiser had been kicked out of every bar in town, so he founded his own place so he could party on his own terms. He didn’t expect his bar, Blaine’s Pub, would become a legendary stop on the live music circuit in Texas when he opened. That’s when his friend from Dallas, singer/songwriter Mark David Manders, showed up from Plano and suggested he perform there.
That night, Manders and band set up in the corner of tiny Blaine’s Pub and the rest is history. Today, if you’re attempting to become established as a music act in Texas, you have to perform at Blaine’s. It’s the mandatory stop on the northern routing of the popular Texas Country Music circuit. In the late 1990s, acts like Pat Green, Jason Boland, the Braun Brothers of Mickey and the Motorcars, Randy Rogers, and Wade Bowen made their pilgrimage to perform in front of an appreciative San Angelo crowd at Blaine’s.
By the late 2000s, Bart Crow and Josh Abbott performed at Blaine’s on Thursday nights when there may have been just a dozen patrons in the bar. They eventually landed a spot on a Friday or Saturday night at Blaine’s. Today, acts like Abbott fetch $50,000 to perform in front of arena crowds.
By 2007, Rex Rogers opened the Dead Horse, a different kind of venue downtown where his focus was on rock and rockabilly music, the kind of music that was popular on Austin’s 6th Street and the Red River Cultural District. Except San Angelo never enacted sound ordinances like they did in Austin.
Down on College Hills, the Steel Penny Pub, owed by Ed Fawcett and his partners, was booking rock music. Bands like Blue October and San Angelo’s own Los Lonely Boys honed their acts there.
At Roger Allen’s Chicken Farm Arts Center on Martin Luther King Blvd. the venue was introducing local music artists to San Angelo by the end of the last decade.
That’s when Phyllis Cox and Toni Hunter, proprietors of a failing antique store with furniture from the avant-garde 1950s through 1970s, decided they too can put up a stage and turn their place into a live music venue. Live music and antique furniture situated around a unique V-shaped bar gained momentum.
Then there was the Bill Aylor RiverStage where promoters tried and tried to make shows sustainable since Blaine Martin’s infamous picnics, but never could for a long while.
Martin moved the Blaine’s Picnic to Boerne in a spat with the San Angelo City Council over their ban of open containers at city venues. The Boerne show failed in 2006, and he had sold his start-up bar to Midland oilman Steve Brown and family. The Browns attempted to bring back the picnic’s magic with the Concho River Music Fest in 2007. They couldn’t make it work.
A year later, recent Angelo State University graduate Cody Baker launched the Lone Star Music Fest, and held it at the RiverStage for four shows, then moved it to Midland where it became known as Crude Fest. Named the top music festival in Texas by the Texas Radio Broadcasters Association, Baker sold the rights to Crude Fest to radio station conglomerate TownSquare Media a few years ago. Crude Fest was inundated with bad press over the number of drunk driving arrests in 2017 and TownSquare decided to shut it down.
It wasn’t until Jayson Adams at Roadhouse Tickets found success with a Cody Johnson show at the RiverStage in 2016 that promoters swarmed in and brought a mix of entertainment here, from The Temptations to ZZ Top to the Coliseum and RiverStage.
At about the same time large venue concerts were gaining momentum, the $20 million San Angelo Performing Arts Center opened, complete with a fresh remodel of the City Hall Auditorium. San Angelo benefitted with top-notch Broadway musicals and the San Angelo Symphony Orchestra now has a home.
Throughout all of this history, San Angelo struggled to gain statewide recognition for its contributions to the arts, specifically Texas Music, until now.
Diann Bayes, President of the San Angelo Conventions and Tourism Bureau, announced this morning that Governor Greg Abbott has designated San Angelo as a “Music Friendly Community” through the Governor’s Texas Music Office.
Bayes worked on gaining the designation for over a year.
“We worked with our wonderful music venue owners, musicians, and promoters of music in pursuit of this designation. San Angelo is the first city in West Texas to receive the honor and only the eighth city in Texas,” Bayes said.
The mayor wholeheartedly supported the effort.
“San Angelo had always been blessed with a love of music and talented musicians. Being designated as a Music Friendly city is an honor and an opportunity," said San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter. "San Angelo is a city that celebrates musical talent and supports the incredible talent at our many venues that open their doors to showcase the creative musical entertainment.”
San Angelo joins other Texas cities that have received the official Music Friendly Community designation from the Texas Music Office, including Conroe, Stephenville, Lindale, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and Denton.
“We have a great deal of work ahead of us and with the help of a wonderful Music Friendly Advisory Board and others across the city, we are excited to share the incredible music story of San Angelo. Music is vital to communities, improving the quality of life and vitality of a city. The music industry represents important jobs and improves the economy. We will work with the Texas Music Office to capture the economic impact music has on San Angelo,” Bayes said.
Mayor Gunter will officially accept the Music Friendly Community certification in a ceremony at the House of FiFi Dubois on Thursday, June 27, from 7-9 p.m.
“The CVB appreciates the support of the Chamber, the City of San Angelo, and the citizens in our efforts to promote our city to visitors. We look forward to great things coming from this designation,” Bayes said.
The Texas Music Office's "Music Friendly Community" program provides Texas communities with a network for fostering music industry development, and sends a clear message to industry professionals that certified communities are serious about attracting and developing music industry growth.
It’s all about promoting tourism and economic growth, Bayes said.
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